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Juneau man receives 26-year sentence for 4 felony drug counts

John White's previous criminal history includes nine felony convictions

Posted: April 16, 2011 - 9:43pm
John White leaves Juneau Superior Court on Thursday after being sentenced to 26 years on drug charges and a past criminal history that accounted for a most serious offender sentencing.   Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire
Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire
John White leaves Juneau Superior Court on Thursday after being sentenced to 26 years on drug charges and a past criminal history that accounted for a most serious offender sentencing.

A Juneau man received a sentence of 26 years in prison Thursday, a term derived from not just four drug-related felony convictions, but also the man’s history as a career criminal.

Assistant District Attorney Angie Kemp said John White’s history on probation for previous offenses was abysmal, his record was abysmal, and his 15 prior juvenile convictions would be felonies if they had been committed as an adult. White’s criminal history includes nine felony convictions, including one for second-degree robbery and another for second-degree attempted sexual assault.

White’s attorney Marcus Rogers, who broke down in tears at White’s trial, again was emotional in his sentencing request.

“He has had a long history of criminal involvement as a child,” Rogers said.

“It was sad for me to read the pre-sentence report. I don’t think I am tough enough at this hour…”

Rogers said White was sexually assaulted as a child, was drinking alcohol at 13 because his parents were alcoholic, and his attempted sexual assault conviction came from an incident when he was 19 and the victim was 17 and a friend.

“It wasn’t a random attack on some random person,” Rogers said.

White’s past also includes pulling a knife on a cab driver in Seattle in order to steal $27.

“He is certainly a candidate for rehabilitation,” Rogers said. “For someone with his background and lack of education and incarceration as a child it, of course was hard for him to find a job to make a living.”

White said he sold drugs because he could not find work as a fisherman, only as a manual laborer. He also cited the high price of Juneau rent as a contributing factor in his crimes, and said he couldn’t stay with family because one had committed a felony over 15 years ago and staying at a half-way house is where people commit a lot of crimes.

“I believe this is the least I have done as a criminal,” White said. “I don’t believe I deserve 20 years. Do you believe I am a worst offender? I don’t. I guess I am going to get what the court gives me. I don’t believe an (OxyContin tablet) and a gram are big quantities in what is happening in Juneau. I didn’t want to be on the street in January and March.”

Pallenberg said that there has been lots of talk in lots of cases devoted to drugs in Juneau and anyone who spends time in court knows drugs are available.

“A large portion of crime in Juneau is related to drugs,” Pallenberg said. “Violent crimes happen, theft, robberies … that is the toll that drugs take beyond just to the people that use them. There is a substantial difference to how we look at drug crimes committed by addicts and users verses people who sell drugs for personal gain.”

Pallenberg acknowledged a lack of skills makes finding work difficult, especially in a tough economy.

“Lots of people have those obstacles and find a way to make it without selling drugs,” Pallenberg said. “When you make the choice to make ends meet that way and get caught, under the law it is a heavy price. I see a lot of drug cases. None of the cases involved such a past criminal history.”

Pallenberg said White had nine prior felonies in an extraordinary record going back 20 years, 26 years if his juvenile record is included.

“The Legislature has made clear by enacting presumptive sentencing ranges that people who committed serious crimes when they have multiple felonies, they should have long sentences,” Pallenberg said. “You have never successfully completed probation or parole. ... This case is not a worst offense but Mr. White is a worst offender. He can do time and function in an institution, but I don’t think he can function when he is not in an institution.”

Kemp said the only way to keep White from committing crimes was to keep him in prison.

White received 20 years for his Feb. 16 conviction on one count of second-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance (MICS) and 10 years for each of three third-degree MICS convictions. Those sentences are to run concurrently, but Pallenberg tacked on six one-year sentences previously suspended for other convictions, bringing White’s total prison time to 26 years. He also has to pay restitution of $1,250.

A co-defendant of White’s, Priscilla Barr, pleaded guilty on Feb. 14 to one count of second-degree attempted misconduct involving a controlled substance. She received a seven year sentence, with four years suspended.

Kemp said most of White’s crimes were the result of substance abuse, yet White continually chooses not to engage in any rehabilitative efforts.

Court documents show White stating he would gain nothing from enrolling in alcohol counseling or by going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

The state said White had stopped going to sex offender treatment programs because the counselors were only interested in getting money.

“The state offered him eight years flat time and in my opinion they felt that was enough time to protect the public and serve justice,” Rogers said. “Then once he didn’t accept that and wanted to assert his right to a trial, because of issues such as the entrapment defense we presented, and once he did that they ask for a max on everything. He essentially got 14 years added on to what they originally thought was justice, simply because he asserted his right to trial. They punished him for that. He didn’t do anything worse between the eight year offer and the 26 they are asking for. I think it was an excessive amount of time for one OxyContin (tablet) and a few grams of cocaine. Of course we don’t want that stuff in the community, it’s a bad thing to be involved in, but 26 years is what murderers get, or kidnappers, or violent (criminals).

• Contact reporter Klas Stolpe at 523-2263 or at klas.stolpe@juneauempire.com.

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